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Credit Cards that Offer Elite Status for Car Rentals

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At a time when elite benefits are shrinking and those that still exist are becoming more elusive, I’m appreciative of any elite status that I can get and maintain the easy way, even for rental cars. Today TPG Contributor Jason Steele discusses credit cards that let you circumnavigate the elite status requirements at rental car agencies, so you can reap the benefits without spinning your wheels.

Having elite status with a car rental agency is an easy way to speed up the rental process and get to your destination more quickly. Lines at rental car counters can be agonizingly long, especially at night when fewer staff are available. Regular customers have to wait their turn, while those with elite status skip to the front, or are often able to proceed straight to their vehicles. Thankfully, it’s much easier to obtain elite status with a rental car agency than it is with an airline or hotel program. In fact, you may already be holding a credit card that offers you elite status with a rental car agency, without even knowing it. In this post I’ll discuss credit cards that give you elite status at rental car agencies, how to claim that status, and the benefits it provides.

MasterCard World Elite
MasterCard World Elite credit cards come with elite status

MasterCard  World Elite Car Rental Program This program offers elite status with Avis, National, and Sixt. Popular World Elite MasterCards that offer travel rewards include:

Avis First, what you get: 

  • Avis Preferred Service, which allows you to skip lines and go directly to your vehicle.
  • Two-Day Weekend Rental Rewards, which enables customers to earn rental days after every fourth qualifying rental of 2 consecutive rental days, up to eight in one year.
  • Single Car Class Upgrades when available.
  • 25% discount on rentals.

Normally you need to have 12 or more qualifying rentals, or 35 or more qualifying rental days in a calendar year on one Avis Wizard number to earn Avis First status. To enroll, use this link before December 31st, 2014.

Avis First
Avis First usually requires 12 rentals or 35  days, but is complimentary for World Elite MasterCard holders.

National Emerald Club Executive Status, what you get:

  • Faster rentals. Bypass the counter.
  • Choose your car. Choice of full size or better cars from the Executive area at the reserved mid-size rate.
  • E-receipts, so you don’t have to wait for an agent to give you a receipt. Use their Drop & Go service to drop off your car.
  • Reward choices including free rental days, frequent-flyer miles or hotel rewards. One Free Rental Day with six rental credits.
  • No second-driver fees.
  • Guaranteed upgrades, allowing you to pay for one car class less than the car you reserved.

Otherwise, you would need to complete 25 paid rentals or 85 paid rental days in a calendar year to earn this status, but World MasterCard holders can sign up by using this link before December 31st, 2014.

National Executive status allows you to pay for a mid-sized car and choose a full size or better for the same price.
National Executive status lets you pay for a mid-size car and choose a full size or better car for the same price.

Sixt Platinum status, what you get:

  • Up to a 15% discount on Sixt car and truck rentals.
  • Free upgrade to the next car group and a double upgrade at U.S. locations.
  • Sixt MobileKey: Allows customers to pick up their keys from their key safe and head directly to your car.

Customers typically have to rent from Sixt at least 10 times per year to earn this status. World Elite MasterCard cardholders are supposed to call MasterCard at 855-802-1387 to get their complimentary Platinum status, but you may have to call Sixt instead at 888-749-8227. American Express Platinum cards All versions of the American Express Platinum cards, including the Mercedes-Benz, Morgan-Stanley, and the Business Platinum card offer complimentary elite status with Avis, Hertz, and National.

Avis Preferred status, what you get:

  • Skip the the line. This allows you to have your paperwork and method of payment stored in advance so you can go straight to your car.
  • Save up to 25% when using code AWDA756900, and get a one level upgrade when using code UUNA007.
  • Receive a Free Weekend Rental Certificate when you use code AWD# A756900 and rent twice within a 6 month period.

While these benefits are useful, this status actually appears to be offered to anyone using this link, so the benefit to Amex Platinum cardholders is questionable.

Avis First is available to everyone, not just Amex Platinum cardholders, but at least they give them special discounts.
Avis Preferred status is available to everyone, not just those with Amex Platinum, but at least Avis gives cardholders special discounts.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, what you get:

  • Expedited service at designated locations with Gold counters.
  • Up to 20% off best contract rate at participating Hertz locations worldwide
  • Up to 25% off best contract rate on Hertz Prestige Collection weekend rentals
  • 4-hour grace period before an extra day is charged.
  • 10% bonus on Hertz Gold Plus Rewards.
  • A One-car-class upgrade.

Like Avis Preferred status, anyone can enroll in Gold Plus Rewards (formerly #1 Club), but the lower rates and 4-hour grace period are exclusive to Platinum cardholders. To enroll, use this link. National Emerald Club Executive Status Offers the same benefits listed above for World Elite MasterCard cardholders. To enroll, use this link.

united club card
The United Club Card also offers complimentary Avis First memberhsip.

United Club Card from Chase This card used to tout enrollment in Avis’s top of the line President’s Club, but now only offers membership in Avis First (described above). To join, use this link. The United MileagePlus Presidential Plus Card from Chase Although this card is no longer offered to new applicants, existing cardholders can still enroll in the Avis Presidential Club, which includes the following benefits:

  • Guaranteed rental car availability, even without a reservation.
  • Complimentary two car-class upgrade when available with every rental of an intermediate car class or higher.
  • Free day of Avis GPS navigation on rentals of 3 or more days.
  • Up to 30% off standard rates at participating Avis locations in Canada, Europe, Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific regions (where permitted by law).

Cardmembers can sign up using this link.

Recommendations I find National Executive status to be my favorite program, as I love choosing my own car from the Emerald Aisle Executive selection. This works out ideally when renting a car for family travel  since the Emerald Aisle is where they tend to keep their mini-vans. This status is easy to get if you have an American Express Platinum or any World Elite MasterCard. The next best status is Hertz Gold Plus Rewards (included with the American Express Platinum), due to the 4-hour grace period. This amounts to a free day on rentals between 24 and 28 hours long, and whenever your departure time is more than a couple hours beyond your arrival time.

Of course, it’s worth enrolling in all of these programs, even if only to avoid lines should you ever rent from one of these companies, and enrolling in the Avis President’s Club is a no-brainer for anyone who still holds a United MileagePlus Presidential Plus Card from Chase. Finally, you have to have a qualifying card to enroll in these elite status programs, but once you do, you can use any card you want to pay for the rental car itself. Therefore, you should make sure to choose the right card to maximize points and miles earning and obtain primary rental car insurance.

Status matching Another way to earn some value from these programs is to let them match your status. For example, Hertz offers a status match that should grant Hertz Five Star status to those with National Executive status. Similarly, National’s status match program offers Executive Elite status to those with Avis President’s Club status. If you hold elite status with one program and are thinking of switching, it can’t hurt to ask for a status match even if it isn’t explicitly offered.